Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.
These 5 valuable tips for writing at home are a practical way to cultivate a healthy mind and soul while your fingers are typing.
And they’re for you no matter what kind of writing you do.
Maybe you carve out snippets of time to put together articles … or moonlight after putting in a full 8-5 day at another gig … or work as a full-time freelancer … or operate a mommy blog and fit in writing during naptime… or write remotely putting together technical journals for your employer …
These days my kids are grown. My writing space is quiet and I have mental space to think. Plus, I’m fairly comfortable with my own company.
But even when I wrote in between soccer practice and slapping together PBJs, I learned that writing at home presents a unique set of challenges.
Challenges like distractions, self-awareness, FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), perfectionism, and self-discipline.
Working in a group office limits these challenges, simply by the nature of the communal environment. (Of course, working in an office has its own set of issues. But I digress.)
At home, you create the environment. What kind of environment will you choose? If you’re not intentional, you may slip into some unhealthy patterns.
These 5 valuable tips give you the chance to create the most optimal writing environment for you and the way you work.
My first “office” was a laptop set up on the corner of the kitchen table, which I set up for an hour or two each afternoon before the kids came home from school. Once it was time to go to the bus stop and collect the little whippersnappers, I closed the laptop and put it out of reach.
Now as a full-time freelancer, I have an office in my home. It overlooks a set of bird feeders and part of my front garden. But it also has a door which I can close to avoid distractions, such as when I’ve hit a rocky patch in my writing and I’d rather head to the kitchen to get a cup of tea than persist.
Regardless of what your office is like, the point is to have a dedicated space. When you write in the same place each day, you remove one of writing from home’s biggest challenges: distractions.
More than one Greek philosopher (including both Socrates and his pupil Plato) are oft-quoted as saying, “Know thyself.” Today, we call it self-awareness.
When you write outside of the home – say in a cubicle surrounded by professional peers – you are forced to adapt to that environment. But at home, you can adapt the environment to what comes naturally to you.
Do you know what works best for you? Perhaps you write best in complete silence (my hand is up!) or with music blasting in the background. What about time of day? Maybe you are an early bird who is more creative and productive in the morning or a night owl whose muse begins singing about 10 PM. Some writers work well in short spurts of 20-30 minutes. Others need a block off a couple of hours.
One set of habits is not better than another. The trick is to know how you work best and put those parameters into place.
Even at home, you won’t always have writing conditions that are perfect. The phone rings and it’s an anchor client, so you answer it in the middle of your workflow. Or the washing machine overflows and you need to be available for the plumber during your most productive time of day.
But if you know what works best for you, you can maximize your writing time on more days than not.
Confession: setting a writing project goal allows me to manage one of my biggest challenges – Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO).
I have too many ideas that I want to develop into articles or posts or even books. And then there’s my inbox, jam-packed with opportunities to take a free webinar or course. If I don’t set parameters, I go in too many directions. Many projects get started and few get completed.
So I’ve learned to set SMART goals – goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound.
When I set a SMART goal, I am forced to get very specific: “I will write the first draft of the newsletter for Client Z and submit it to her by Friday at noon.” The goal allows me to set aside my Fear Of Missing Out because I’m not missing out.
Instead, I’ve made a choice to complete a project.
Writing is a series of small tasks. Once I’ve set a writing goal, I break it into smaller micro-goals. I complete one micro-goal, then another, and another … and pretty soon, I have finished a project.
Manage your micro-goals as small assignments. When you have an assignment, then you’ve clarified a specific task with a beginning, middle, and end. And you’ve given yourself a deadline: “Today, I will complete research for this 700-word blog post.”
Assigning myself daily work is akin to receiving a daily assignment from a boss. Oh, I could take forever to research every website and interview every expert I can find in order to gather enough information to write 700 words. But with a daily assignment, I’m forced to leave my perfectionistic tendencies behind and get the work done.
And if the project takes longer than needed, so be it. I can place it on my assignment list for tomorrow. But in the meantime, I make progress. In the words of Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg, “Done is better than perfect.”
Which of these is you?
For me it’s both, depending on the day.
And herein is one of the challenges to writing at home: self-discipline. Without a hovering boss and peers with their noses to the grindstone, it hard for some writers to stay motivated. On the other end of the spectrum, fear of failure rears its head and chains writers to the keyboard for 18 hours at a stretch.
Neither is healthy. So instead ....
Choose a time each day to write. Log on and start typing.
And choose a time NOT to write. Log off, close the door, and begin again the next day.
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